Dream Racer – ‘Gloomy Eyes’

By Sean Reid

Over the past 12 months or so, many of us have found comfort through listening to music that reminds us of happier, easier times. Like it or not, nostalgia works. As Stephen King once said, “sooner or later, everything old is new again”, and he’s not wrong. From rebooted movie franchises, revived music trends, and ’90s football shirts, there’s a thirst for nostalgia.

When it comes to filling the wistful hole left by Drive-Thru Records and Fueled by Ramen bands of the early to mid-2000s, Southern California debutants Dream Racer are stepping up to the plate. Evoking memories of bands such as The Early November and The Starting Line, as well as all things Warped Tour related, the SoCal quartet look to blend their memories of growing up in a thriving punk scene with a reflective look of adulthood.

On the surface, ‘Gloomy Eyes’ is four slices of emotionally-driven pop-punk. Sure, songs such as ‘Let’s Go Home’ and title track ‘Gloomy Eyes’ far from reinvent the genre’s formula. They do, however, thrive with urgency and a sense of togetherness.

If there’s one noteworthy track, it’s ‘Lay Right Here’. Anthemic in its delivery with an energetic hook and sincere lyricism (“I’ve been waiting a long time, the worst fucking year, I know I’ll get better”), vocalist/guitarist Robert Rodello’s words resonate with positivity and determination as he sings “we’ll be alright” in the chorus. The aforementioned ‘Let’s Go Home’ is a close second, ending the EP on a vibrant note. Power chord guitars, some neat duel vocal work, and a rapid synth key melody create an adrenaline rush of a finale.

Although the Californians can clearly write heartfelt, hook-driven pop-punk, they do fall into the unfortunate trap of sounding too much like the bands that came before them. ‘From All Directions’, for example, sees them rein things in to embrace their Dashboard Confessional side with whispered vocals and acoustic guitars, whereas ‘Gloomy Eyes’ could be identified as sounding like a dozen other bands from the emo pop-punk scene of the last 15 to 20 years.

You can’t fault the quartet for leaning on their influences, and many young bands in their formative years do it. Nevertheless, with these songs originally being written by Rodello on an acoustic guitar, the addition of Manny Arrendondo (guitar), Anthony Bueno (bass), and Michael Raso (drums) has injected some gusto and muscle to create a digestible debut EP. They’re certainly proud of their roots, their collective friendship, and the experiences they’ve had. An admirable, if slightly nostalgic, first outing.

SÊAN REID

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